BBC apologises to Geldof over aid-for-weapons reports
The BBC apologised unreservedly Thursday to Band Aid over reports that claimed that millions of pounds raised by the charity to fight famine in Ethiopia had been spent on weapons.
The British broadcaster also said sorry to Irish rock star Bob Geldof, one of the founders of Band Aid, who said he hoped the apology could begin to fix some of the "appalling damage" done by the allegations.
The on-air apology came after a report on the World Service in March which claimed large sums of aid money which went to Ethiopia's Tigray province in 1985 was used by rebel forces to buy weapons.
It was followed up by other BBC outlets and prompted a complaint from the Band Aid Trust. The charity was enraged by the reports which it said gave the impression most of the money raised by the charity had been diverted.
The broadcaster admitted Thursday it was guilty of giving a "misleading and unfair impression."
"The programme gave the impression that large amounts of Band Aid and Live Aid money had been diverted," said the broadcaster.
"The BBC wishes to apologise unreservedly to the Band Aid Trust for this misleading and unfair impression."
A BBC spokeswoman said the original World Service report did not make the allegation that relief aid provided by Band Aid was diverted, but added that "this impression could have been taken from the programme."
"We also acknowledge that some of our related reporting of the story reinforced this perception," she said.
The broadcaster apologised to Band Aid trustee Geldof for suggesting he declined to be interviewed "because he thought the subject too sensitive to be discussed openly."
The rock star had originally been inspired by BBC reports from Ethiopia to establish Band Aid but his relations with the broadcaster rapidly soured after the reports were aired.
He welcomed the apology but also blasted the "unusual lapse in standards by the broadcaster."
"We welcome the BBC's apologies and hope that the public corrections can begin to repair some of the appalling damage done and move forward," he said.
In 1984 Geldof and rock star Midge Ure put together Band Aid, a supergroup of British musicians and singers which recorded the single "Do They Know It's Christmas" to raise money for famine relief.
The following year, the Live Aid concerts were held in London and Philadelphia, in the United States, with major acts performing to raise money.
© 2010 AFP